Ambassadors in disguise
This province’s natural and pristine beauty is reason enough to want to leave the cities and run for the Long Range hills, but the warmth and overall laid-back nature of its people is an even greater drawing card.
Newfoundlanders themselves are their own greatest ambassadors, and there are some who have had the opportunity to extend their reaches beyond the gulf to share their goodwill. Among these are Ray Johnson, Wayne Chaulk and Kevin Blackmore of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers
I have had the pleasure of meeting these three gentlemen on several occasions, the most recent being during their 2011 Arts and Culture tour. The show this year, by the way, was the best I’ve seen in years — a two-hour expression of the diehard Newfoundlanders they truly are, as I have come to learn.
I can’t remember the first time I heard the “Boys” perform, but I do remember that hearing them made me think about why I love this place so much. Their repertoire is all encompassing. Through music, comedy and recitation, they depict every aspect of Newfoundland life, then and now — including the heartbreak of those who have had to leave their beautiful province to find work. It is no wonder that when Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers go to the mainland, Newfoundlanders come rushing out of the woodwork to the nearest concert venue hoping for a little taste of the home they miss so much.
I made sure that I introduced my kids to the Boys at a young age. Initially, family road trips involved the playing and replaying (ad nauseam) of Fred Penner and Sharon Lois and Bram tapes. But as the kids got a little older, I gradually weaned them off of those and replaced them with the Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. They became our main source of entertainment.
One summer when we drove to Montreal to visit my family, Ray, Wayne, and Kevin kept us company on the cassette player the whole way. While we were there, my kids introduced their mainland cousins to the Boys. They were all immediately hooked. One of the cousins ended up performing a lip-sync version of ‘Chainsaw Earle’ for his high school English class. It was a huge hit. How could it not have been?
Their work has been shared and appreciated far beyond the waters of this coastline by transplanted Newfoundlanders as well as by people who have never lived here but who have had a taste of what it would be like if they did. Wayne and Kevin told me a story of a couple living in urban Ontario who abruptly decided to pack it all in and move back to Newfoundland when they recognized, after hearing one of the Boys’ songs, that they were “caged like a rat on the 15th floor.”
In fact, Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers’ recordings have been heard and enjoyed around the world — they have boosted the morale of the crew members of a Canadian naval ship as they sailed the Adriatic Sea, and helped raise the spirits of a young boy in Nova Scotia who was hospitalized after a serious accident. There are, in fact, countless stories of the warmth and appreciation many people have expressed over the years with regards to how their lives have been touched by these three gentlemen.
Indeed, Ray, Wayne and Kevin are among our most famous Newfoundlanders. Perhaps they could be considered as icons worthy of a triad of autographs framed and mounted on the wall. But I see them primarily as Newfoundlanders — Newfoundlanders with voices that have been heard spreading the word that this is a place rich in beauty, heritage, and pride and a province whose people hold fast to their ties regardless of where they hang their hats.
Rita Rassenti Payne writes from Pasadena. She can be reached at ritael